Preston slumped to a 1-0 defeat at Reading on Saturday afternoon, ending an eight-game unbeaten run.
North End weren’t at their best in Berkshire, but at least looked to be heading home with a point. Unfortunately, Declan Rudd parried Jordan Obita’s last-gasp long-range shot, and couldn’t keep out Matt Miazga’s effort on the rebound.
Losing so late on was a major blow for North End, but at least there is a chance to hit back quickly. Preston take on Leeds United on Tuesday night, and then Blackburn Rovers next Saturday.
Hopefully North End can get back on track, but Saturday’s defeat has flagged up a major concern. Yet again, Preston have failed to hit the ground running after an international break.
Alex Neil played down the issue at full time yesterday, but the post-international break record under the Scot hasn’t been great since his arrival.
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In the 2017-18 season, North End failed to win at all in four post-break games; a 1-1 home draw with Barnsley, a 2-2 draw at Fulham, a 0-0 stalemate with Bolton Wanderers, and a 4-1 thrashing at Sheffield Wednesday.
Last term, there were again four international breaks. Two defeats came in those games, remarkably both against Reading, whilst also posting a draw at Hull City and a win over Blackburn.
Preston beat Brentford after the first international break this season, but fell once again versus Reading, which is becoming a bizarre oddity.
With two wins from 10 post-international break games under Neil, it feels like it’s happening too regularly to be a coincidence. Whether it’s merely a loss of momentum or something in training, these slip-ups are forming a clear pattern now.
What makes it even stranger is that North End don’t exactly lose many players to international duty. Only Alan Browne and Seani Maguire went away over the break, and Browne was on the bench on Saturday anyway.
There are two more breaks to come this season. One arrives next month, with a trip to Derby coming upon Preston’s return. Later in the season, there’s a final break in March, and Preston then head to Huddersfield.
Preston’s results in those games will now be under scrutiny with this poor record clear, and hopefully Neil can ensure there aren’t more slips to come, even if there may not be a clear cause or answer from the outside looking in.